Thursday, March 31, 2016

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

In preparation for this month, our school had a visiting poet working with students in their classrooms. Some kids missed speech sessions because of this and when one student came into my room and I explained why the rest of her group was missing, she wrinkled her nose and said, “I hate poetry!”

Jellyfish, Marine, Purple-StripedJellyfish, Jelly, Fish, Marine

“What?!” My shocked reaction surprised us both. Then I asked, “Have you ever read a poem about a jellyfish?”


Do you know what a jellyfish looks like?”


I quickly pulled up a video of jellies on my iPad and I had her. Hazel was captivated.

By a lucky turn of events, only moments before Hazel came into my room, I’d read the poem, A Jelly-fish by Marianne Moore. I received this gem by email from the Academy of American Poets because I signed up for their “teach this poem,” a free weekly email for K-12 educators. They provide classroom activity ideas and, in this case, a video of Jellyfish.

When I started reading the poem to Hazel I realized right off we needed a vocabulary lesson. What eight-year old is going to understand every word in these first few lines?

            Visible, invisible,
A fluctuating charm,
An amber-colored amethyst
Inhabits it; your arm
Approaches, and
It opens and
It closes;
            You have meant
To catch it,
And it shrivels;
You abandon
Your intent—
            . . .

I was afraid the challenging vocabulary would cause Hazel to lose interest but I was wrong. When we came to the end of the poem she asked if she could write one about otters. I couldn’t refuse such a request. Take a look at what she produced:

River otters
by Hazel

River otters swim fast!!!!
They glide through the water like a fish.
They are so cute.
If I had a river otter I would feed it every day.
I would take it out of the river and put it in my bed.
My bed would smell like fish sticks!!!!

When she finished her poem she wanted copies for her mom, her teacher, and our school nurse. Her feeling of accomplishment was obvious—and the look on her face—well that was pure poetry.

Happy Poetry Month—may it bring wonderful words and images into your world and into the lives of those around you.

(Check out “teach this poem”:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pesky Words

I walked into a first grade classroom to pick up one of my students for speech and another child, who’d graduated from my program the year before, hurried over and said, “When do I get to go back to speech?”

“You don’t need my help any longer—you sound great!”

He’d met all of his goals the year before and his only remaining error was with the “r” sound. His speech was typical for a child of his age so I dismissed him from speech therapy in his kindergarten year.

“But I need help with the word, ‘bugga’.”

Oh, oh—I couldn’t understand him. “With what?” (Maybe he did need help.)


He didn’t give me additional cues, just that one pesky word.

“You mean burger?” I asked. “Like a hamburger?”

“No. You know, ‘bugga’.” And to help me out, he stuck his finger up his nose.

“Oh, I see. The “r” is giving you trouble.” I’d hate for him to go through life unable to pronounce that word!

He’s a little bit young to start working on “r” sounds, but it never hurts to bombard him with the correct pronunciation, especially when he gets to hear it in a story. I recently read a book that is a perfect match for him. 


It has “r” sounds on every page. Here is a small sample,

            In the jungle, toucans snooze.

            Also sloths and cockatoos.
            Ignoring snoring striped hyenas,
            Monkeys dream they’re ballerinas.

                        But not Fred.

(The “r” is not enlarged in the book.)

EVERYBODY SLEEPS (BUT NOT FRED), written and illustrated by Josh Schneider will make a nice addition to his classroom as well as my own.

My students worked enthusiastically on one of the early Common Core State Standards (CCSS): “recognize and produce rhyming words” (Reading: Foundational Skills K.2) as they listened to the text and tried creating a few rhymes of their own. They worked on another CCSS when they “describe(d) the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (Reading: Literature K.7).

The illustrations captivated them—pigs nodding off “in stinky rows” and sheep lying “in a wooly heap,” but their favorite was the anteater with his long probing tongue.

They came up with ideas for that tongue I would never have thought of, but my student who struggled with his “r” sounds would have appreciated their insights! They were certain that tongue would come in handy to get rid of . . . well, I’d rather not say but think of that pesky word above.